Former India opener Aakash Chopra has predicted the top six overseas performers in the upcoming IPL 2021.
The cricketer-turned commentator's first pick is Sunrisers Hyderabad captain David Warner. Aakash Chopra lauded Warner for his 'unique' ability to adapt to Indian conditions.
Warner was the top-scorer for Sunrisers Hyderabad last season, amassing 548 runs at an average of 39.14. Aakash Chopra expects the left-hander to have another productive campaign this season:
"He (David Warner) is a very strong player. Although, let's be honest, his first nine matches will be on grounds which might not suit him that much, but he won't be affected by that. He's got this unique ability that despite being an Australian, he adapts to Indian conditions as if he's making his Tik Tok videos. You'll once again find him scoring 400-500 runs. We saw last year that he can change his gears and play carefully which is what's required early on this season," said Aakash Chopra in a video uploaded on his YouTube channel.
Aakash Chopra's second overseas pick is leg spinner, Rashid Khan. A key member of the Orange Army, Khan, took 20 wickets last season at a brilliant average of 17.2.
Aakash Chopra feels that the spin-friendly wickets in Chennai and Delhi could see Rashid Khan hit the ground running. The former opener also predicted Khan to win the Purple Cap this season, saying:
"I feel he (Rashid Khan) is going to do something special. He is a sensational player. Five matches are in Chennai, and four matches are in Delhi, and he''ll find a lot of turn on both the pitches. He has also played a lot more cricket recently than his counterparts, so he'll be ready. My prediction is he'll be the purple cap holder this season as well".
Next on Aakash Chopra's list is Chennai Super Kings (CSK) all-rounder Sam Curran. Curran impressed all and sundry with his all-round show last season, taking 13 wickets and scoring 186 runs.
Chopra suggested that CSK captain MS Dhoni is almost a 'fan' of the English youngster and could make great use of his bowling, batting and versatility this season. He said in this regard:
"I feel Sam Curran has three qualities, and (MS) Dhoni is making great use of them. I have seen this after a long time that Dhoni has become almost a fan of a player, and that is Sam Curran. He is a very shrewd bowler. He can swing the ball early on, bowl the slower ones, the cutters, you'll find him bowling in different parts of the innings. The second is his batting. Dhoni might send him higher up to order and ask him to play freely. Or he could be asked to play the long innings and in the lower order as well, like in the recent ODI against India. His versatility will be his third factor".
Expect AB de Villiers to leave an indelible mark this IPL season: Aakash Chopra
Aakash Chopra hailed AB de Villiers as a man from another planet for his ability to thrive in high-pressure situations.
Chopra urged the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) not to tinker with De Villiers' batting position and let him leave an 'indelible' impression in IPL 2021.
"He (AB de Villiers) is a man from a different planet. We all feel he's taking a risk, but he does the impossible very easily. I have a request for RCB - don't go into matchups, like not sending him against leg spinners. If he bats at the right position, he will belt everyone. Also, he might not have a lot of matches remaining in the IPL, so we can see him leaving an indelible impression this season," said Aakash Chopra.
Meanwhile, Marcus Stoinis scored 352 runs and took 13 wickets in IPL 2020 for the Delhi Capitals. Aakash Chopra feels the Australian all-rounder could pick up from where he left last season and do a brilliant job in the absence of Shreyas Iyer.
"The best of Marcus Stoinis came in the last season, and I think he's going to continue in the same fashion. He'll have more responsibility this season because Shreyas Iyer isn't there. I have a good feeling that he'll do well as a batsman and as a bowler as well; he's doing a fairly good job," said Aakash Chopra.
Finally, Aakash Chopra picked Punjab Kings' swashbuckling batsman Nicholas Pooran as one of the probable top overseas performers in IPL 2021.
Aakash Chopra termed Nicholas Pooran one of the most 'fascinating talents' and added that he could be instrumental for his franchise's success this year.
"Nicholas Pooran is one of the most fascinating talents to watch. When he's batting, you actually stop, watch and admire. I expect Punjab Kings to do a lot better this season, and for that to happen, Nicholas Pooran will be imperative," concluded Aakash Chopra.
The IPL 2021 season kicks off on April 9 in Chennai with a clash between two-time defending champions Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore.